Documenting Public Proceedings and Events

The question of who is a journalist - and by extension, what is journalism -- has come into sharp relief in the context of citizen media coverage of public events, including access to and reporting at election events, court proceedings, conferences, sporting events, and breaking news.

A critical issue for citizen media coverage of these public events is, of course, access to the events in the first place. Citizen media's access, however, often implicates challenging legal questions. What credentials are necessary and legally appropriate? What protections does the First Amendment provide for "citizen newsgathering" activities in these contexts? Can non-professional journalists be excluded when professional journalists are permitted access? As live-blogging, twittering, and other technologies become more widespread, we expect to see the tension between citizen media creators and event organizers become more pronounced.

In this section of the guide we discuss your rights to access and document public proceedings and events.

  • Live-Blogging and Tweeting from Court - a guide to covering court proceedings using real-time communication technologies such as Twitter, live-blogging, and streaming.  Various court rules may affect your ability to provide real-time coverage of court proceedings.  These pages provide practical advice on how to avoid legal trouble if you intend to provide live coverage from inside the courthouse, including interviews with journalists and bloggers who have navigated these waters.

  • Documenting Activities at Polling Places - a special resource examining of the laws that impact voters' ability to document their own voting experiences through video and still photography at the 2012 presidential election, as well as their ability to carry out other newsgathering functions, such as interviewing other voters outside of polling places.  Note that access polling places and the use of photography and video equipment is largely dictated by state law and varies significantly from place to place.

  • Documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration - a primer on attending and documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.  Heightened security measures will be in place across the Washington area that will affect where you can go, what you can bring with you, and what you can do to document the Inauguration.  The primer also includes information on requesting official press credentials.

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